I've often heard distributors/exhibitors lament that the aam aadmi is in no mood to watch the harsh realities of life on big screen. He doesn't want to be reminded of the grim realities that surround him. He doesn't want to relive the worries/pain/sorrow when he spends his hard-earned money to watch a movie. All he seeks is unadulterated entertainment. Could that be one of the reasons why a large chunk of the movie-going audience stayed away from THE ATTACKS OF 26/11? Hailed as Ramgopal Varma's best work in the recent times, the film was never expected to start with a bang at the ticket window, but grow rapidly with a strong word of mouth. The biz did escalate, but only in pockets of Maharashtra and certain centres of South India. Elsewhere, the biz remained way below the mark.
Could that be the only reason for the below par response to THE ATTACKS OF 26/11? RGV, the creator of this movie, feels otherwise. A more appropriate title, he says, could've done the trick. He feels, a title like KASAB would've been more power-packed than the current one, to lure the audience. RGV may have his point of view, but if one were to go by this rationale, how does one explain a title like KAI PO CHE working beyond Gujarat? May be a title like KASAB would've garnered tremendous attention, but, eventually, it's the content that does the talking, right? The material was super-strong this time, but, perhaps, the aam aadmi didn't want to relive the horrors of 26/11.
The issue with titles is long-standing and is often used as a justification when a movie doesn't work. Almost three decades ago, I distinctly remember, a couple of distributors were skeptical when N. Chandra, who had delivered a solid hit in ANKUSH, had announced PRATIGHAAT with Nana Patekar. The naysayers had predicted, much before the release of the film, the title would act as an impediment at the BO. But it didn't. PRATIGHAAT was a resounding success. Conversely, there are umpteen examples of easy-to-comprehend titles not doing the trick.
The other release, I, ME AUR MAIN, met with a similar fate at the BO. Its performance was slightly better at a few urban centres, but the overall business was grim. This, despite a decent cast adorning the billboards of the movie. Again, a well-known distributor felt that the viewer prefers watching John Abraham in an action role. Every time John has experimented with 'different' films, the results have been disastrous, he added. He cited the examples of Anurag Kashyap's NO SMOKING, Abbas Tyrewala's JHOOTHA HI SAHI and Nagesh Kukunoor's AASHAYEIN failing to do the trick. Perhaps, he has a point. But does it mean that John should stop experimenting as an actor? We often accuse our actors of repeating themselves in film after film. We often accuse them of becoming a prisoner of an image with the passage of time. Does it mean John should restrict himself to hardcore action films like FORCE or entertainers like HOUSEFULL 2?
I, ME AUR MAIN is not path-breaking cinema. I agree, the film has its share of flaws, but blaming the actor for not drawing the audience to theatres is an age-old excuse, really. There could be other reasons for a movie not faring well, but we pass on the buck on the lead actors. Always.
I, ME AUR MAIN has a major advantage in its moderate costing [below Rs 20 crores, including P & A]. The revenue generated from non-theatrical avenues might help recover a chunk of the investment, but the fact is that the theatrical business -- in India as well as in Overseas -- has been lackluster.